X Wing Ship Review: TIE Fighter

Continuing my ship review series this week we’re taking a look at the mainstay star fighter of the Galactic Empire, the TIE fighter. If you haven’t read my T-65 X wing review, check it out here.

Ship and Dial

TIEf_xsect.1

The TIE fighter (TIE is Twin Ion Engine) has been a staple in imperial squads since the game’s inception. With only three hull, no shields, and three agility you’re looking at a ship that could stick around for a while, or die horribly in a fire, depending on dice variance and where you put them.

TIE Fighter Dial

The TIE fighter movement dial is nothing to sniff at. With regard to high PS TIEs you have a lot of white manoeuvres and two K-turns to make you less predictable and harder to block. With regard to low PS TIEs all of those options plus barrel roll give you a lot of mobility and blocking ability.

Whenever I see a ship with a barrel roll I want to know how it does with Push the limit and the TIE fighter is sort of meh. Your green moves don’t give you many options with only the four, because with such a fragile craft I’m looking for the ability to green turn if I’m going to start stacking points for a high PS ship with PTL. These green moves would be fine on most rebel craft but they are generally designed to trade punches and take some hits.

Academy-pilot

Until the release the Z-95 Headhunter in wave 4 the TIE fighter was the cheapest ship you could field with the Academy Pilot clocking in at 12 points. With only a modification slot you don’t have a lot of customization options, most modifications are restricted to large ships (anti-pursuit lasers), specific chassis (integrated astromech), or certain actions (autothrusters for boost or advanced SLAM for SLAM). You could put Mk 2 Ion engines or a stealth device on one but it probably wouldn’t be worth it.

Naturally the first thing that comes to mind when I look at a generic pilot for a ship is “How many of these can I take in a [100 point] game?” The answer to the above question being 8 you really start to see the biggest strength of the TIE fighter, the enemy has to shoot at you a lot for very little return. Wait what? Hear me out, 7 Academy Pilots and one 16 point ship (Dark Curse or Backstabber come to mind) means that you have 8 ships with three hull, three agility, focus, evade, and the speed to get out of there once they start to lose hit points means your opponent will often waste two, three, or more shots just to take one TIE off the board, meanwhile you’re pummeling him with two and three dice attacks. Those two and three dice attacks and three agility dice are even more effective when your opponent has no actions to modify dice with, the broad range of movement options, barrel roll, and PS 1 makes the Academy Pilot a premier blocker, and if you have more than one on the table it gives you that many more chances to land the block.

Available in the original X Wing Core set, TIE Fighter expansion, and Imperial Assault Carrier expansion.

Obsidian-squadron-pilot

For one point more than an Academy Pilot you get two more pilot skill. This ship has a couple of interesting advantages. Most of the time you’d think that having PS 3 is worse than PS 1 for a blocker, but consider your potential opponent. Against most ships that get important dice modification from actions you’re still going to move first and have a chance to block, but things that move before you (low PS generics from each faction) aren’t generally your target of choice in an enemy squad.

Low PS generics will fall at your feet begging for mercy, well no, but any turn where you prevent an enemy ship from shooting by destroying it first is a good time. Also on the chance you’re looking at enemies with Predator shooting at your Obsidian TIE only get one reroll.

Available in the original X Wing Core set, TIE Fighter expansion, and Imperial Assault Carrier expansion.

__Chaser___Card

The first named TIE we’ll visit is Chaser. When you put a TIE fighter in a squad with other ships your first consideration when you choose one is usually “How many points do I have to fill after I save some for an initiative bid, if any?” If the answer is 14 one of the options you’ll be looking at is Chaser. His ability is useful in niche situations only. Normally anything that grants you extra actions is strong, but an extra focus, conditionally, on a TIE fighter isn’t universally useful. The reason behind this is that he won’t usually be your opponent’s first target.

The niche use I can see for it is putting Chaser forward as a blocker, with a higher PS ally behind him to spend, and pass a focus for him who will be a more vulnerable target at closer range.

Given 14 point left after I’ve paid my bid, Chaser would be my blocker TIE of choice.

Available in the Imperial Assault Carrier expansion.

Black_Squadron_Pilot

Black Squadron Pilot is the last generic pilot TIE fighter but isn’t really something you’d consider at the 14 point price tag unless you can’t spare another and you want to do something clever with PS 5. Where they really shine is at 15 points, with Crack Shot, the single caveat here is that I wouldn’t do it unless I had at least 3 of them (them being ships with Crack Shot) or more ideally 4. This makes the Black Squadron Pilot the star of “Crack Swarm” building, being that they’re much more affordable than their TIE F/O counterparts.

On the outside chance you’re fielding this guy outside of a crack swarm you can put him as part of a swarm tactics chain, though for one point more you have a better option.

Available in the original X Wing Core set, TIE Fighter expansion, and Imperial Assault Carrier expansion.

__Wampa___Card

(Imagine the long A Wampa scream on your own, I can wait) Wampa is perhaps the best 14 points an imperial player can spend when making something that isn’t a TIE swarm. He is a very tempting target for enemies with high agility to shoot, because the longer he lives the greater chance he is going to land unavoidable damage to your hull.

Wampa goes well in squads that include palpatine, whether he is the 3rd man behind a big shot like Whisper and an upsilon shuttle with all of the bells and whistles, or the 4th behind a lambda, Lockdown (Omega Leader), and the Inquisitor. He sits at a real sweet spot. Lets say you’re saving your Palpatine action for an attack that turns out to be not so hard to evade, you lost your chance to use it on attacks with your high PS aces. Wampa is ready to get that Palpatine critical result which could turn into automatic damage.

Be wary that M9-G8 can make you reroll critical results. However if you get one from Palpatine you’re fine.

Available in the Imperial Assault Carrier expansion.

Night_Beast

If you started collecting X wing with the Original Core Set (I recommend it) Night Beast is likely one of your earliest TIE fighter experiences. He has an amazing ability that I would love to have on many ships not called TIE fighter or Y wing. When Night Beast is a big player on your team it’s a good ability too, but restricting your excellent movement dial to only your few greens to try to use his ability for double actions is pretty lame.

Night Beast is best used in a squad when you’re more interested in his pilot skill of 5, and getting a free focus any time that one of his green moves is what you would do anyways. As a side note he is among the TIE fighters that can really benefit from Twin Ion Engine Mk. 2, as he isn’t only getting more moves to relieve stress, but more moves to net him a free focus. I’d call Night Beast a more aggressive TIE fighter because he can get that opportunity focus to spend on offense if he needs to, without having to give up repositioning or an evade.

Available in the Original Core Set.

Winged-gundark

Winged Gundark isn’t my favourite TIE fighter. Generally effects that only upgrade hits into critical hits aren’t very strong, particularly if it only works at range one on a ship that already has trouble hitting opponents. His pilot skill also limits his ability to shoot after teammates to try to hit after shields are down.

Winged Gundark could excel in a squad like the Sinister Six (early X wing meta, not Spiderman) Consisting of all of the named TIE fighters from wave 1, because he would be able to shoot last and put in some crits. For him you’re looking at utilizing the PS 5, and the ability is cake if you get to use it, and you remember to.

Available in the TIE Fighter expansion.

__Youngster___Card.png

Youngster is an awesome TIE fighter for several reasons: he is the cheapest PS 6 pilot, he has an elite pilot talent  for two points cheaper than the PS 7 TIEs, doesn’t need to use an ept with the action header, and is basically a Black Squadron with Veteran Instincts and a second ept.

Like any TIE fighter with ept you’re looking at possibly Crack Shot, but lets talk about ones that work with his ability. Marksmanship is 3 points and honestly not that useful, as you’re restricting defensive capacity for the possibility of landing crits. Expert Handling isn’t great because Youngster’s minions are likely to be low PS and possibly shedding target locks before the enemy takes their action is really poor. Squad Leader is an interesting concept, mostly if Youngster is in a group with a lot of different pilot skills, but that sort of situational flexibility and a PS 6 TIE fighter may be worth it. Daredevil sounds like a really good way to kill your TIE squad, and less important considering you have barrel roll. Expose was the original golden boy of Youngster if you ever considered him popular, seven 2 attack ships can become seven 3 attack ships. Probably the best use of Youngster that I can think of besides Squad Leader is Rage; for only 1 point you can give your TIEs full rerolls at range 1 and beyond, and a focus token. You need to take more time to reengage a Youngster Rage swarm after a pass but considering you can fit him with 7 Academy Pilots you’ve got a lot of firepower on that pass.

Available in the Imperial Assault Carrier expansion.

Backstabber

Backstabber, the original flanker, is a good offensive option. Any pilot ability that adds more dice to an attack is a pretty solid one. With the ability to 1 turn and barrel roll it’s not hard for a TIE fighter like Backstabber to get in a position outside of an opponent’s firing arc, especially since he shouldn’t be your opponent’s early focus.

If Backstabber is on the other player’s early hit list you should be pretty happy, since that means they are likely showing their backs to your more valuable ships.

Available in the TIE Fighter expansion.

Dark_Curse

My and potentially everyone’s favorite TIE fighter, Dark Curse has an awesome ability. Slightly weaker because of the advent of Expertise, but Dark Curse is as solid defensively as any TIE fighter can be. Without being able to modify their dice his attackers struggle to put damage through on a three agility TIE with the evade action. He is perhaps one of two TIE fighters I’d consider Stealth Device on (the other being Howlrunner) but it’s still a lot of points for a little bit of defence on such a cheap ship. He used to be popular as the 8th TIE in a swarm with 7 Academy TIEs.

Dark Curse is probably best used trying for as many reckless range 1 engagements as possible. Not many people want to shoot at him when they have offensive dice mods since he’s a hard target, and if he is being ignored but not doing anything it’s a waste.

Available in the Original Core Set.

Mauler-mithel

Mauler Mithel is a real badass, pilot skill 7, extra attack dice ability, and an elite pilot talent. With such high PS, even a 9 with Veteran Instincts barrel roll can be really valuable to dodge arcs or reposition for range 1. You can take Crack Shot, but only really helps if you’ve got more in the squad. If you have the points Expertise could actually be very good if you’re barrel rolling to get range one, because then you have mods on 4 dice instead of focusing for mods on 2 in that situation.

Given the fact that TIE fighters shouldn’t be your opponents first target Mauler is cool, but there are other interesting options…

Available in the Original Core Set.

Scourge

If you’re looking for a TIE fighter with damage potential Scourge is your guy. Unlike Mauler Mithel your extra attack dice are dependant on your opponent being a bit limpy instead of at range one. For the same points you can get a striker, but they are less agile and doesn’t have Scourge’s pilot skill 7.

More useful to Scourge than M&M is Crack Shot, and not just if there are others on your squad. In the event that your target doesn’t have a damage card yet it helps you get into the zone with his ability. Expertise is also useful but may be too expensive for what it does when Crack Shot is perfectly viable.

Available in the Imperial Assault Carrier expansion.

Howlrunner

Howlrunner, the original swarm leader, is beloved by some for her great team buffing ability, and maligned by others for her inability to buff teammates if she explodes. She is definitely fragile, but there are a number of ways to use her if you’re able to maintain good formations.

First off I’m going to live in hope that you’re already considering Crack Shot, a good option if you’re running a squad lousy with it. A more traditional option is Swarm Tactics, either on it’s own or in a chain you can erase some low PS ships to protect yourself and boost your damage output at the same time; the single Swarm Tactics on Howlrunner is probably better than a chain, using it on your highest risk, low PS ships each turn can give you a lot of extra shots in a game that Howlrunner survives for a while.

Available in the TIE Fighter expansion.

How+to+parent+correctly+smallest+tie+fighter+pilot+ever_1b3107_5178996
Lets me honest, he just wanted enough Core sets to run a good TIE swarm.

Reviewing TIE fighters really beats in a simple concept, with such little customization for any one pilot available your customization comes from simply choosing the right pilot for the right job. TIE swarms have always been viable squads competitively except around 2016 but with the FAQ changes in March 2017 I don’t think that you’d be disappointed bringing one to a competitive table.

I hope this has been a fairly comprehensive review and useful to you. Which are your favourite TIE fighters to use? Do you build swarms or use them to augment/fill in a squad? Should I review the Rebel Y wing next or the Imperial TIE Advanced? Leave your answers in the comments below.

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